It doesn’t take a sociologist or anthropologist to point out that Americans are becoming less and less civil. Lines are drawn between the sides of all sorts of issues: politics, religion, race, where you live, etc. The name of the game, on any issue, is to be the loudest talker and take the strongest, most inflexible, hardline position you can, whether the fact back you up or not. That kind of talk used to be be only found in politics or religion and especially when those two areas would intersect in the public arena. But now, it’s easy to find that sort of dialogue occurring on almost every sports show and within the pages of our newspapers’ sports sections and our sports magazines. Nothing defines the downward turn of sports talk more than ESPN’s “First Take.” What Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith have done to the culture of sports with their inane debate show is inexcusable. I won’t take the time to list all of my issues with the show (and there are many), but the one thing that I think this show has brought about is the loss of civility in sports talk.
Not to lay all the blame of the current situation in the sports world at the feet of Bayless and Smith, but they have made an art form of saying things, loudly and forcefully, that they may or may not believe. The danger of this type of “journalism” is that people that watch and read what they say and start to emulate them. And that’s bad for everyone. All of us. It turns us into trolls on social media and strains real life relationships based on something as inconsequential as sports.
I’m not blameless here at all. If you follow me on Twitter or have read any of my other articles, you know that, from time to time, I’ve taken some cheap shots at some of the University of Kentucky’s athletic rivals. I’ve made my share of Rick Pitino-Karen Sypher jokes. I’ve made fun of Indiana University building a shrine to 2012’s Sweet 16 team (still ridiculous). And while I intend to keep covering the Cats, I’m doing to do it from a more positive perspective. At some point, we have to take a stand and do better and remember that it’s just a game.